A Davenport native believes he has the future of the city's riverfront sitting in the back seat of his car. Architect Bill Handel of Nashville, Tenn., has built a model of the Davenport skybridge with an attached restaurant that extends out over LeClaire Park.
The design looks something like the Starship Enterprise from the "Star Trek" entertainment franchise.
Handel calls it "The View."
He's got Mayor Bill Gluba's attention.
For months Gluba has said he pictures a restaurant at the skybridge that looks something like the iconic space needle in Seattle, Wash.
Referring to Handel's idea Thursday, Gluba said Davenport should move forward with its own restaurant after a city request for proposals, or RFP, found no interest from private developers. Those requests were due Sept. 25.
"It is the most significant spot on the riverfront," Gluba said. "Maybe it ought to be city owned and privately leased."
Last month the city had issued a request for developers to consider a stretch of riverfront between the Dock restaurant and the skybridge, an area that currently is mostly a parking lot serving customers of Rhythm City Casino's gambling boat. The city will have the Dock demolished within the next couple of weeks and the gambling boat will leave shore next year.
The mayor said he's not surprised no one responded, given how the RFP was worded.
"It was vague and poorly drafted," Gluba said. "Staff did a poor job getting a draft out there."
He added: "But it's a confusing project. It's just as well. I don't want a 4½-story building."
Alderman Gene Meeker, at large, said the lack of response had nothing to do with the wording of the request.
"I talked to three developers, and they didn't mention that," Meeker said. "They just haven't had the time to submit. They're too busy with existing projects. I guess we'll wait our turn."
Meeker said the next step after the Dock is demolished is to plant grass seed and wait until spring to send out another request.
Giving the greenlight to a city-owned skybridge restaurant would require city council action. Both Meeker and Alderman Bill Boom, whose 3rd Ward includes the downtown riverfront, say there has been no discussion on the city council about that kind of a public development, both referring to it as "the mayor's idea."
That's not to say they're opposed to the idea.
"I'll listen to anybody," Boom said, adding a restaurant near the skybridge makes more sense than one at the Dock restaurant site, given future development to accommodate Viking River Cruises.
"We started to see opportunity with Viking," Boom said. "That changed the city's vision for the riverfront."
The city sent out a request for proposals this summer for a facility to accommodate Viking's vessels, which are expected to begin docking in Davenport in 2017. Eight firms responded, and their proposals are being reviewed by the city.
Handel said he had Viking in mind when designing his skybridge restaurant.
"I think their jaws will drop when they see this," he said.
According to his model, the restaurant would sit at the third and fourth floors of the elevator, just below the skybridge, which is at the fifth floor. An open air patio sits on top of the restaurant, apparently accessible from the skybridge walkway that juts out from the elevator. On the ground below the restaurant would be an outdoor theater, he said.
"I'm coming up with this dream," he said. "For any restauranteur, it should be a license to print money."
Meanwhile, Handel says he's doing "pro bono" work as he pushes his skybridge model. He was driving around with it in his back seat Thursday, hoping to catch a few minutes with some Davenport officials while he's in town for a visit.
He said the skybridge is "way underappreciated" when it ought to be the center of the city. But something else drove his passion.
"I love this city so much," Handel said.